PIXEL BURN – Legacy of Kanye: Homeworld

In which Matt defends Kanye West
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[TRANSCRIPT]

Hello my name’s Matt and this is Pixel Burn, where I take a sarcastic look at some of the more important, interesting or irritating things to have happened in the week’s gaming news.

The most fascinating thing this week, for me at least, was the huge chunk of leaked footage and other information for Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun. A sequel of sorts to the classic Legacy of Kain series, albeit with none of the original cast, that was being developed for Xbox 360, PS3 and potentially PS4. That is until publisher Square-Enix pulled the plug on it three years into development, allegedly because it wasn’t predicted to meet their sales projections.

Presumably the same sort of projections that expected Hitman Absolution and the Tomb Raider reboot to each sell 5 to 6 million copies within four weeks of their release.

Then branding them as failures when they each “only” shifted three-and-a-half million.

Which was a bit like expecting the movie Serenity to earn more at the box office than Return of The King. I mean I’m all for “reaching for the skies” Square-Enix, but come on! You could have tempered your expectations somewhat.

Although at the time Square-Enix had just pissed-away more money than god on Final Fantasy XIII. So their unrealistic sales expectations were perhaps less about “aspiration” and more to do with “financial desperation.”

Anyhow, if you’re looking at this footage of Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun and thinking “that looks an awful lot like Shadow of Mordor”, you’d be sort of right. A whole lot here does indeed look much like Shadow of Mordor, Batman and Assassin’s Creed. Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun was in development well before Shadow of Mordor however, so we can probably chalk that one up to coincidence. Conversely there’s also not a whole lot much that looks like the Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2 or Legacy of Kain: Defiance that fans of the series remember.

According to insider sources the story was going to be set in a far future version of Nosgoth where humans have all become sterile, ala Children of Men, and vampires keep the sun blotted-out with massive smoke-belching chimneys.

Something guaranteed to cause a stir amongst readers of The Nosgoth Guardian.

Amidst all this the game’s protagonist, a chap named Asher, does the seemingly impossible by getting his wife pregnant. Anyway, after stuffing his wife with a brim full of Asher, he’s then brutally slaughtered along with said wife, their unborn child and a bunch of innocent people, by a soul-eating vampire assassin called Gein. As in Ed Gein, who once made a lampshade out of human skin. Rather than staying dead and doing sod-all for the rest of the game however, Ashur somehow winds-up possessing the body of his murderer. Whose own ghost is then forced to hang around giving him advice like a passive-aggressive version of Al from Quantum Leap.

Ashur was then to go on a big quest to discover who ordered the massacre, something about a special vampire child, and how it was all somehow connected to The Elder God from Soul Reaver. All while traversing the now-mandatory vast open-world, flitting between the physical realm and a ghostly spectral realm to solve environmental puzzles.

Combat was going to be in the style of the Batman Arkham games yet still distinct enough to have perhaps been quite fun. Especially once you acquired the wings ability that let you soar across the land and fatally divebomb people, like those bloody eagles from Far Cry 4. Although the visual appearance of the main protagonist does put a bit of a dent in the coolness somewhat. It’s a bit hard to accept him as a tormented creature of the night, performing a deadly ballet of death, when he looks as if he should be performing at Cirque du Soleil.

As a long-time fan of the Legacy of Kain series since the original Blood Omen, there’s a fair bit here that got me excited. That is until I remembered the game had been cancelled. Similarly there were a few things that got my hackles up, feeling like too much of a departure from the original games.

The strange photonegative look of Dead Sun’s Spectral Realm threw me at first. It seemed too stylised, and beautiful in a weird way, so unlike the cold, blue-green, alien ambience of the spectral realm from Soul Reaver. It’s not necessarily bad, just different. Which isn’t bad either. Look, I just hate change alright?!

Another complaint is that for a game supposedly set in a future far beyond the end of Soul Reaver, by which time Nostgoth’s vampires had evolved into grotesque hyper-specialised monsters, seeing them all look mostly-human again was a bit jarring. Still, at least they don’t sparkle or any other such tween horseshit.

And there was no involvement from original writer and director Amy Hennig, whose creative vision for the series was intrumental in making it what it was.

Even disregarding all those issues however, I still have one major gripe about what I’ve seen of Dead Sun. Now this may not seem like much, and to some of you this it’s going to sound very silly, but…there’s just too much fucking swearing in it.

[DEAD SUN SWEARING MONTAGE]

I think the crudest word I ever heard in any of the previous games was Raziel calling someone a “bastard” once. Because all the characters were too busy having long, yet enthralling conversations about free will, fate and the nature of time. And while much of the dialogue could be somewhat “flowery” at times, it gave the series an almost Shakespearean quality. Especially as it was all delivered with frankly masterful performances from classically trained actors like:

Michael Bell, who so brilliantly evoked Raziel’s weary defiance and naievete. When he wasn’t pissing-about in the recording studio.

And Simon Templeman, whose voice is so deliciously diabolical he could make reading a phone book sound ominous. That is when he isn’t also pissing about in the recording studio.

Not forgetting of course the late great Tony Jay whose dulcet tones need no introduction, and who likewise enjoyed pissing-about in the recording studio.

Despite my complaints it’s still fascinating to see the Legacy of Kain sequel that could’ve been, had Square-Enix not got cold feet and bloody well cancelled it.

And not all of the game got the chop. Dead Sun was also going to have a team-based competitive multiplayer mode, which was the only thing to survive the cancellation. You might know it by the name “Nosgoth,” which features many of the assets originally created for Dead Sun and is rumoured to be a test to see if the franchise can still sell..

As for whether Dead Sun would’ve been any good: well it could’ve been, but you’d have to be some sort of Time Wizard to know for certain.

From cancelled games now to games in development, as a certain Mr Kanye West revealed in an interview this week that he’s working on a videogame! Don’t believe me? Here it is from the man himself.

[KANYE WEST TALKS ABOUT HIS GAME]

Which is pretty much all anybody knows right now. And while your initial reaction might be groan with despair or laugh because “LOL, Kanye’s being goofy again!”, you know what? I’m actually genuinely interested in this. No, seriously. No jokes, no snarky comments, no sly winks to the camera. More power to him I say. But not TOO much of course. No one man should have ALL that power.

For starters it sounds like a deeply personal project to him, what with it being about his mum and all that. So it’s unlikely to wind up a crass, exploitative microtransaction jamboree for idiots, like that game his wife put her name to.

And as game concepts go it sounds pretty intriguing, with a good scope for interesting puzzle mechanics as well as narrative exploration of themes like love, forgiveness, mortality and faith. It could end up looking like acclaimed indie puzzle-platformer Closure, in which you manipulate light sources to change the environment.

Or maybe something similar to ICO, or “eco” or however the fuck you pronounce it. Y’know, something in which players would take a more hands-on approach to guiding Kanye’s dear old mum to the bosom of The Lord.

You see if some latte-sipping hipster twonk with a stupid hat announced a game like this, the games press would be falling all over themselves to hail it as the next best thing in videogames.

But because Kanye West is making it, or rather paying others to make it for him, everybody has to have a sneering old chuckle and make quips about stage invasions instead.

Such naysayers may be surprised to know this isn’t the first time Kanye West has dabbled in making videogames. In fact without videogames, Kanye West might not be making music at all.

According to an interview with men’s magazine Details, Kanye once tried his hand at coding a Super Mario Bros clone in which the goombas were all ghostly vaginas and Mario was a walking penis with eyes. Which as game ideas go isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard.

In fact if you gave it retro-style pixel art and entered it into the Independent Games Festival it’d probably sweep every award going. And if it didn’t then Kanye would just invade the stage anyway to explain why Beyonce’s game should’ve won.

Actually I’d pay good money to see that.

And finally onto the triumphant return of some games that were once thought lost, with the release this week of Homeworld: Remastered. Gearbox Software’s restoration of the space-based real time strategy classic Homeworld and its narratively-inferior sequel, Homeworld 2. Which came out this week to generally positive reviews and much excitement from Homeworld fans.

Including me. So much excitement in fact that I went and bought it, despite trusting Gearbox about as far as I could throw their CEO, Randy Pitchford.

I’m not that I’m saying he’s fat or anything, he isn’t. I’m just scared to go near him in case his steals my wallet to outsource another awful Aliens game with it.

My quick capsule summary of it so far is that, where it counts, it’s very much the Homeworld I remember. The work Gearbox have done on the sound in particular is for the most part excellent, particularly the music and voice work. The hand-drawn cutscenes too have been remastered from their original drawings and the result is superb, finally letting players see all those fine details originally lost to the vagaries of video compression in the 90s. Finally the art direction still holds up even after all these years, and while there’s only so much Gearbox could do with ship models the new texture work is very good.

It’s not all supernovas and stardust however. The remastered Homeworld 1 now runs on the same mechanics as Homeworld 2, which changed quite a few things and not necessarily for the better.

Formations are inconsistent and fall apart as soon as combat begins, some orders like the ever-hilarious kamikaze option flat-out don’t work, and I’ve encountered a number of bugs that – while not completely ruining my experience, have taken some of the joy out of it. Mission 8 in particular, which was a desperate and hellish siege in the original, was a walk in the park in Remastered. Because of a scripting error that made nearly every the enemy ships sit around doing fuck-all.

More than a few such bugs have cropped up in my playthrough so far but on the plus side, Homeworld Remastered also includes the original unremastered Homeworld and Homeworld 2. So if you’re a stickler for that 100% authentic experience then this collection is worth it for that alone. Particularly as they were never made available to buy digitally, forcing you to scour ebay and car boot sales instead.

Unless you’re me of course, since I still have my original discs!

Shit, so why did I buy the Remastered collection then?

For convenience mostly, and because despite its bugs and other issues its still a good way to revisit something that really hasn’t been done quite as well since. Unlike Aliens: Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem, both festering shitpiles given a cursory spit and polish before they were shoved out the door to make money, Homeworld Remastered feels like a genuine labour of love. Gearbox are also very much aware of the current issues and are working on patching them out, so if you’re tempted by Homeworld Remastered but don’t want to deal with as many bugs as I have, feel free to wait a while before picking it up. Or buy it anyway and play through the classic versions.

There are also already a number of mods available for it, thanks to in-built Steam Workshop support, so you can eventually look forward to playing with ships from Star Wars, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica. Hopefully someone will find a way to mod-in all the ships from Homeworld Cataclysm, which hasn’t had the remastered treatment because the source code was supposedly lost. Personally I reckon Gearbox are saving it for DLC.

Although that could just be my inherent skepticism of Randy Pitchford talking.

That’s all for this episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and Kanye West know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then I can only assume you’re a sales executive at Square-Enix. Until next time, you can go now.

 

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.